10 Ways To Build Resilience

Talent alone is not enough to bring you success.  You must   have  resilience in order to hang in there when the going gets tough.   Woody Allen recognizes the importance of stamina when he said,  “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Last Sunday, I was visiting the Hammer Museum with my family and noticed  Dianne Wiest eating lunch alone. She looked fragile with her arm in a sling and I thought to myself, underneath that angelic exterior and soft voice is one tough cookie! I remembered reading about what she had gone through as an actress in her early days.  As a young actress, she hit a bump that could’ve ended her career. Cast in a play and feeling totally lost, during a rehearsal, the director exploded at her saying, “If I had any idea how BAD you really were, I never would have cast you!” Instead of going home and giving up, she found the strength to hang in there and create a flourishing career.  In an excerpt from the book, “Actors At Work,” by Tichler and Kaplan, Wiest talks openly about another challenge in her career while filming the film Bullets Over Broadway  – “Woody sent me the script (Bullets Over Broadway) and said I’d be perfect for the part. 

So I read it, and I thought, what the hell is he dreaming of? This isn’t for me. I had no idea what he was thinking. So I put on these beautiful costumes, and the first day of shooting comes and goes, and Woody says, ‘Come to the cutting room.’ He said, ‘Look at this,’ and I looked at the dailies, and it was awful. I mean awful, just a stupid woman saying these meaningless lines, trying to seduce beautiful John Cusack. And I said, ‘I don’t know what to do, Woody.’ And he said, ‘Well, think of something.’ I said, ‘I think you should replace me.’ So the next day, we were sitting on the set, both of us in despair, saying this is truly awful. And I said, ‘I think you have to replace me. You have to fire me and get somebody who can do this.’ And he said, very loyally, ‘No, I think it’s something to do with your voice.’ And I remember coming toward panic that morning, determined that I would lower my voice, but really not knowing what the hell I was going to do. So we went back and reshot the same scene, and I was determined, and I lowered my voice, and suddenly, with this fake voice I could do anything. Anything. “

And so she did… she went on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Wiest did not let fear and self -doubt shut her down.   Instead, she turned an obstacle into an opportunity to grow as an actress.   With Woody Allen’s belief in her acting ability and her courage to hang in there when she wanted to give up, she was able to turn the situation around.

It is essential that you  develop staying power instead of running away from your challenges. Obstacles are unavoidable.  Learning how to deal with them rather than avoid them will contribute to your growth as an actor and a human being.

Here are 10 tips to help you stay in there for the long haul:

  1. Trust that everything that happens to you, good and bad, contains the seeds for the next thing to unfold. All beginnings have endings, its part of the process. Patience will help you endure the storm until the rainbow arrives.
  2. Learn to approach things with positive, open-hearted curiosity. Curiosity will open you up; self-judgment will shut you down.
  3. Don’t waste your time feeling sorry for yourself and thinking why me.   Instead, get out of your own way by seeing difficulty as part of living and an opportunity for growth. Remember, when growth is your goal, you will never lose. Enjoy being a student the rest of your life.
  4. Have fun, experience your life as an experiment. Nobody is watching or keeping score. Stop comparing yourself to others. “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
  5. Loosen your attachment to right and wrong. Rigid thinking will limit your creativity. Think outside of the box and go for it.   If something doesn’t work out, no big deal. When it’s ready to happen for you it will.
  6. Have a plan for obstacles. Figure out what you need in order to hang in there and ride out the waves of life.   When a big wave comes and knocks you down, shake the sand out of your nose and ears, find your feet and stand up for the next wave.   Put your energy towards learning to ride the waves rather than trying to stop them.
  7. Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.
  8. Accept that change is a part of living. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
  9. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Remembering your competence will help you develop confidence in your ability to solve problems. Learning to trust your instincts helps build resilience.
  10. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body ready to deal with tough situations.

The next time you face an obstacle and feel like giving up,  remember you are not alone, in fact you are in very good company!

Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday.



Hope is not denying what is happening to you right now,  it is the ability to use what is happening to you right now in order to suffer less.  Running away won't take it away.  Instead, trust your strength and goodness.  Cultivate a practice of inner strength by turning to the habits that will make you stronger not weaker.  Know that darkness doesn't mean death.  Darkness can be filled with richness and growth if you know how to use everything that happens to you as nourishment for growth.  Learn to meditate and talk openly and honestly to yourself and others.  Stop hiding behind perfectionism.  It doesn't exist.   You exist just as you are right now and that is enough.

"It may be when we no longer know what to do,

we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go,

we have begun our real journey."

-Wendell Berry 

Go Home

This time of year is all about going home - a physical place that you return to where you feel you belong.  Not everyone has that blessing.  And, although your family may be difficult to be around, they're YOUR family.  Even though there may be disagreements and feuds, the sense of unconditional love takes precedence.   We are wired in our brains to connect with one another.  According to the latest cutting edge neuroscience, our need to connect with people is even more fundamental than our need for food and shelter.  But, what if you find yourself alone during the Holidays?  How can you make this time less painful? Try this:

  •  Start out by not denying your situation.  If you feel melancholy that you weren't invited to join someone's table, allow yourself to feel your feelings.  You have a right to them.  But, maybe you can put a time limit on it.  Tell yourself that you will sulk or cry for one or two hours and then when the time is up, you will pick yourself up and continue with your life.  Don't be afraid of your sadness.  Give it all the room it needs, it will dissolve faster when you don't block it.
  • Connect with yourself.  Don't run away and abandon yourself.    Start off with a body scan.  It is amazing how much fuller you can feel when you get grounded in your body.  Any mindful meditation will help you control negative thoughts.  You can't control whether or not you get invited to someone's home for the Holidays, but you can certainly be proactive with how you handle it. 
  •  Make eye contact.  If the eyes are the windows of the soul, use that to help you feel more connected when you come into contact with people.  Anyone.  It's amazing how satisfying it can feel to be locked in a gaze with someone.  To be seen.  At our very core, we want to be seen, to be gotten.  This can happen with the check out person at the grocery store.  The opportunity to connect is more available than you think.
  • Smile.  The venerable Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile and sometimes your smile is the source of your joy."  Remember whatever you feed will grow.  If you choose to feed your misery then it will feel bigger inside of you.  But if you take control over how you choose to meet your challenges and choose to feed the positive, then that is what will grow.  
  • Nothing is forever.  Know that everything is continually changing, that is the nature of life.  As bad as you may feel right now, it will pass.  It's just weather.  Even though it may be cloudy and cold, remember that behind those clouds is the ever present Sun waiting to come out and spread its sunshine.




The 90 second rule.

What do you do when you feel that you can't handle what's going on?  Do you look to escape or self-medicate?  Perhaps you go into avoidance or distraction mode.  By not dealing directly with what's on your plate, you are strengthening your fears.  You can find your courage to deal with life in knowing that everything is continuously shifting like the weather.  As you weather the storm within, remember that it will pass eventually.   Brain researcher, Jill Bolte Taylor describes the 90-second rule as, " All emotions last for less than 90 seconds.  If anything continues after  it is because we have added our own story and chosen to hold on to the emotion."  In other words, if you are driving and someone cuts you off on the road and you react angrily, if you let it wash through you it will last for 90 seconds.  If you continue to say to yourself, "Everyone is crazy, it's not safe out there. etc.  etc. "  You don't let the emotion go and make it stick around longer with your thoughts.  If you choose to think about that one driver who cut you off all day long, your bad mood will stick around for that long too.  You don't have control over some of the things that happen to you, but you do have control over how you want to handle it.  Mindfulness meditation can teach you how to let go of unwanted thoughts and stay in the present moment by focusing on your breath.  You can start to train yourself to be more in control of your thoughts so that you have more control over your moods.

New Beginnings

Love is the mansion and fear is just a little room in it.  Every moment holds an opportunity to begin again, to start fresh.  The past is your history, but the future is wide open.  Open up to  possibilities rather than dwelling on limitations.  Make a conscious effort to let go of any limiting self-pity so that you can strive towards being the most excellent version of yourself.